2022 FIFA World Cup: Final Preview
After four weeks of action, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is down to the final two teams. Argentina and France face off for the chance to lift the World Cup Trophy and become the fourth team to have won at least three World Cups. The World Cup Final is taking place on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 10:00 a.m. ET from Lusail Stadium.
The main storyline is the matchup of Lionel Messi versus Kylian Mbappé. The PSG teammates have been the two best players in the 2022 World Cup, but only one will be able to head back to Paris as champion. Throughout the World Cup, Messi and Mbappé are the highest scorers with five goals each. Messi has scored a goal in five of Argentina’s six matches in Qatar, while Mbappé has scored in three matches but not since the Round of 16.
Messi scored the opener against Croatia in the semifinal from the penalty spot. The 35-year-old did not only contribute to the 3-0 win by scoring, while also bagging a beautiful assist that completely exposed one of the best defenders in the 2022 World Cup, Croatia’s Joško Gvardiol. The assist to Julián Álvarez was the third of the tournament for Messi which is tied for the most with Portugal’s Bruno Fernandes, England’s Harry Kane and France’s Antoine Griezmann.
In that semifinal, Argentina was excellent in every aspect. Álvarez had two goals while also winning the penalty that Messi converted. Rodrigo De Paul and Enzo Fernández controlled the midfield against a strong Croatian midfield. The defense got their third clean sheet of the 2022 World Cup.
In France’s semifinal match against Morocco, it took all of five minutes for Theo Hernández to put France ahead. The left-back scored a ridiculous scissor-kick goal to put “Les Bleus” ahead. Morocco nearly tied the match with an absurd bicycle kick attempt that would have been the goal of the tournament if it had not been tipped onto the post by Hugo Lloris. France put the last dagger in Morocco’s Cinderella story run with a late goal from Randal Kolo Muani which gave France the 2-0 lead.
The two goal scorers were not expected to play much of a role for France coming into this tournament but stepped up when needed.
Hernández was expected to be the second option at left back behind his older brother Lucas Hernández. However, Lucas tore his ACL after just 13 minutes in France’s opening match against Australia. Since being called upon, Theo has been superb and deserves a nomination for the team of the tournament. As far as Kolo Muani is concerned he has only played a handful of minutes but was a super sub against Morocco. It took him less than a minute to get on the scoresheet following a 79th substitution.
This has become a trend for a France team looking to win back-to-back World Cups for the first time since Brazil did so in 1958 and 1962. Injuries have run throughout the French team including N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema. All three of those players along with Lucas Hernández were going to be starters but injuries had other plans. In their absence, other players have had to step up to the challenge.
In the midfield, 22-year-old Aurélien Tchouaméni has come up huge for France. He scored the opening goal in France’s 2-1 win over England in the quarterfinals and has solidified himself as the future number eight for the French national team. The Real Madrid youngster has started every match for France at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and filled in the void left by Kanté.
Benzema is another player who has missed out on helping his team due to injury. The Ballon d’Or winner would have been a huge help, but his absence left way for Olivier Giroud to fill in. Giroud has scored four goals in five matches at the 2022 World Cup good for tied second most in the tournament with Álvarez. More impressively for Giroud is that he has become France’s all-time leading scorer surpassing Thierry Henry.
Unfortunately for France, Giroud may not be able to play in the 2022 World Cup final on Sunday. It has been reported that the French striker picked up a knee injury during training. He is listed as doubtful at the moment, but do not believe that a minor injury would keep Giroud from playing in the biggest match of his life.
Argentina has also had unlikely players step up to make this match much more than just Messi vs Mbappé. Midfielders Fernández and Alexis Mac Allister have been stellar and stepped up big-time when needed. Mac Allister is just 23 years old but has thrived for Argentina and scored his first international goal against Poland to push Argentina through to the knockout stage. Fernández has also scored one goal and has one assist while looking to be a future star for Argentina.
The 2022 World Cup Final will be the sixth for Argentina who looks to redeem itself for losing to Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final. Through the five finals appearances, Argentina has managed to win just twice in 1978 and 1986. France on the other hand has made the final just three times prior and won twice. They are looking to win their second straight World Cup after beating Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 final.
On France’s way to the 2018 World Cup title, they had to play Argentina in the Round of 16. That match was great and might have been the match of the tournament. It finished 4-3 in favor of the Europeans. Mbappé made a name for himself by scoring twice and Benjamin Pavard scored the goal of the tournament. This final has all the potential to live up to that same excitement and should be an all-time classic.
It would be too easy to say the key players in this match are Messi for Argentina and Mbappe for France. While both are more than capable of winning this match on their own the key for both teams is who steps up alongside them.
For Argentina, Álvarez has been that second option. After Lautaro Martinez struggled in Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia he was replaced by the young Manchester City forward. Álvarez is the only player on Argentina besides Messi that has scored multiple goals at the 2022 World Cup. He has four goals all of which have come in the last four matches with two coming in the semifinal against Croatia. He may be the second coming of Sergio Agüero as an Argentine No. 9 going to Manchester City. If he has even half as good of a performance against France as he is capable of then Argentina will be sitting pretty.
It is much more complicated for France now that Giroud has his injury. The key for France is still to find that second option alongside Mbappé and if Giroud is out then it may come down to Griezmann to be that partner. The Atletico Madrid midfielder has been incredible during the 2022 World Cup. He is tied for the most assists but has also done everything asked of him. Offensively he clearly creates chances for his teammates, but defensively he has suffocated some of the better midfielders in the world.
Before the tournament started I picked Argentina to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup in our Vendetta roundtable, and I am going to stick with that pick. While I think France could very well win this, losing Giroud is massive and gives Argentina a boost. Plus, Messi is playing incredibly and looking to solidify his name as the GOAT, which I do not believe he is currently solely because he has yet to win football’s biggest trophy. I have Argentina winning 2-1 with goals from Álvarez and Messi.
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